Chloe and her punk rock friends get into some trouble at a local show that gets raided by the cops. That trouble doubles as Chloe’s boyfriend has a crap ton of drugs, and, just as Chloe is about to get caught with possession of the drugs, the boyfriend decides to knife a cop. Now her and her friends are on the run from the law and need a place to lay low. Turns out, Chloe owns some property out in the wilderness, a cabin where she used to spend her summers as a child with her favorite uncle. After his tragic death when she was young, she hasn’t been back since. So the crew bundle up and head out to the wilds, only to encounter a park ranger who remembers Chloe from her younger days with some fondness and very, very weird affection. As her friends party and break the rules laid out by the Ranger, they all soon become victims of his stalk and slash, one-liner rampage of gory death. Chloe learns secrets from her past and must unlock the animal within in order to survive this grueling night of terror.
So yeah, this is very much a throwback/homage to 80’s slashers, taking elements of Sleepaway Camp and Elm Street and combining them into a new, neon-filtered package. This is a basic, gory, kids-go-to-the-woods-and-die-horribly shocker and while there’s nothing new here and the characters are basically all assholes that you don’t mind see dying, The Ranger offers plenty of fun to keep things fresh and interesting.
The film has a short running time so there’s never a chance for dullness or boredom and indeed, the narrative moves along swiftly. I was surprised to find that most of the movie is build-up for the wise-cracking carnage to come. When the murders do start happening, they are sudden and brutal and pretty unforgiving. Jeremy Holm plays The Ranger and he hits all the notes just right. He’s funny and sassy but not overbearing, creating a villain I wouldn’t mind seeing in sequels. Most of the tone of this film reminded me of Sleepaway Camp II just slightly less goofy. We get some good, practical FX gore mixed with punk rock and innervating death scenes. So while everything about this movie is fairly basic, it’s dressed up pretty, in a punk rock kind of way, all torn stockings and bloody lipstick.
The Ranger is good, trashy fun and doesn’t try to be anything more. You can tune in, turn off your brain, and enjoy the ride. Is it a classic? Is it a movie you’ll care about this time next year? I guess that all depends on your taste. But for something that is simple and entertaining, The Ranger is a nice new addition to the slasher cannon.
Two and a Half Stars out of Four
The Ranger is streaming exclusively on Shudder